As General Motors enters its new generation, we are still testing vehicles designed and produced in its former life.
The brand may have been resurrected, but much of what consumers will see over the next few years are the same products GM has been delivering – which is to say that while there are many bright spots in the lineup, there are still areas that need a bit of attention.
We recently spent time in the new Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, and not just any old Escalade Hybrid but the new Platinum edition truck.
Cadillac is the first manufacturer to bring a hybrid powertrain to the fullsize luxury SUV segment, and with the Platinum edition they put it over the top.
The hybrid Cadillacs use the same powertrain we find in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon Hybrids as well as the new Silverado Hybrid pickup we looked at a few weeks ago. It features a 6.0-liter gasoline V-8 engine mated to a new transmission that houses the heart of the two-mode hybrid technology. And the new Cadillac sports those same great city fuel economy figures (20 mpg) we first saw (but could not believe) in the GM siblings.
We tested the new Cadillac as daily temps steadily began climbing near or above the century mark, and we were impressed with how well the air conditioning kept the interior cool even when the two mode hybrid system shuts off the gas engine at stops.
The 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is available in two- or four-wheel-drive configurations on models touting the premium content packages as well as the Platinum edition.
All of GMs fullsize hybrids are built at the Arlington, Texas GM Assembly Plant – Tahoe, Yukon and, as of last August, Escalade. In fact, ALL fullsize GM SUVs are now built in Arlington.
Driving the Escalade Hybrid, it is very difficult to identify when the vehicle is running in electric-only mode or gas/electric or gas-only thanks to the work engineers have done to create such a seamless experience. If not for the instrumentation most drivers would not be able to tell the difference (except, perhaps, when moving very slowly).
Power ratings for the Escalade Hybrid are 332hp and 367 lb. ft. of torque with this beast weighing in at a hefty 5,727 pounds. Fuel economy ratings are 20 mpg city and 21 mpg highway – that equates to about a 50 percent improvement in town over a gas-only Escalade and approximately 25 percent better mileage on the highway. During my week, however, I was only able to manage an average mileage in the high 18s in mixed driving.
Despite the hybrid powertrain, the new Escalade does not give up much in amenities. In fact, when paired with the Platinum packaging, there is very little left one could ask for.
Highlights include power retractable running boards, heated and cooled front seats, heated and cooled drink holders in the center console, rearview camera with park assist, three video displays in the rear seat area, DVD player, next-generation OnStar with stolen vehicle slowdown, hands-free calling, turn-by-turn navigation, automatic crash notification and vehicle diagnostics.
The Platinum edition interior is gorgeous with its two-tone leather seating and wood and aluminum trim accents. There is also that unique upper and lower front grille and LED headlamps. And those 22-inch wheels and tires (that give the truck a little extra bounce).
Despite its high level of content there were a couple of things I would have expected on a vehicle of this caliber – namely keyless touch entry and keyless start. These features are routinely found on vehicles at half this price.
What price, you ask?
Cadillac Escalade Hybrids begin at $71,685, but the Platinum edition comes in at a fully loaded/no options sticker of $85,885.
The topic of whether pricey hybrid models are paying for themselves does arise in conversations now and then, so let’s do a little math here:
The Hybrid powertrain is only available on a high-content vehicle and adds about $5,200 to most of the SUV window stickers. Gas (and all the hybrids run on regular-grade gasoline) is selling for around $2.35 a gallon right now. For this exercise I am going to say that I only drive my new Escalade Hybrid in town, so we will see fuel economy rise from the current 12 to the rated 20 mpg (OK, lets use the 18 I got in my driving).
Let’s get to cipherin’ …
The way I figure it, if we drive 15,000 miles per year we would save nearly 417 gallons of gasoline each year getting 18 mpg versus the 12 mpg in the gas-only Escalade. At $2.35 per gallon, that comes out to around $979 per year in savings. So given the $5,200 powertrain difference, it looks like it would take around 5 years and 4 months for the Hybrid to have paid for itself. Plus we can’t even put a price tag on the reduced emissions.